Snapshots #1

To my 9 year self
Inspired by Helen Dunmore’s poem

I recall in 1953 I was a spoilt demanding brat! I always got what I wanted as I was an only child. My mother Brenda Margaret, known as Peggy, had lost my still born older sister by 5 years already named Tessa and had been told to wait several years before having me. I always longed for an older sister which probably is why my friends, especially in Paris, were decades older than I was.

I didn’t see much of my father as he was always at his legal office. He would drive home in his pale blue Zephyr 6 on the dot of 6.00, sit in the lime green back room in his Parker-Knoll chair listening to the BBC 6.0’clock news until 6.30 reading the Liverpool Echo while munching Ritz biscuits or twiglets carefully placed in a Victorian oval bowl next to another bowl with hamisha Krakus dill pickles cut on the bias, sometimes drinking a Johnny Walker Red Label or  a Tio Pepe. Strains of classical music would be playing in the kitchen as my mother prepared dinner to be savoured when the news had finished. However, my father would sit with the Echo open still reading it. That was the memory of my father, constantly reading the paper from cover to cover silently. No ‘What did you learn at school today?’ Or ‘How was your day?’ He was there in body but not in spirit. 

At 9 I was at Belvedere GPDST in Princes Road, Liverpool 8, known as ‘The Jungle’ looking out on to the vast park. We could see lovers in the spring sitting under the mulberry tree opposite the dividing fence with barbed wire atop protecting us innocent young girls in navy blue uniforms and a green and blue striped tie from the harsh world outside. I remember Susan Heald, who was in in my class fainting, when one of the Macintosh brigade, as we called these nerdy men, exposed himself in front of her. I came across a school report saying ‘Gillian must learn to drink her milk.’ Another teacher told me to go away and think in a maths class after queuing up to ask her a vital question. I was not very bright! Only Mrs August the enthusiastic art teacher, gave me positive feedback on my budding artwork.

Life was, at 9, very conventional and revolved round our small professional middle class father’s Jewish family with the exception of my mother’s elder sister, Auntie Gladys and her brother Uncle Lewis with his stout materialistic wife Auntie Tilly.  My older uncle had succeeded in life with an electrical engineering business, Claude Lyons electronics, still flourishing in Hoddeston, Hertfordshire today. He owned a mansion called ‘Beach Lodge’ with a tennis court and grounds where we would go every Saturday along with some of my Jewish classmates. Hilary Zeffert,  Carol Beilin, Maureen Lyons, Elizabeth Dover and Frankie Goodman. Today 3 are still in Liverpool and the other 3 in London. All leading successful lives but I no longer am in touch.

My mother remained at home, having given up her Lark Lane chemist shop in 1944 when baby Gillian Tessa appeared in this world bawling on Saturday 30th December at 8.0’clock. She engaged faithful Alma Peters from her native Swansea to take care of the house at 195 Woolton Road in the leafy suburb of Childwall. Alma and I would sit on the terrace shelling peas in the better weather overlooking the rockery and the small back garden with a triangular patch of roses. At school I would always ask for seconds of peas!

I was a brownie when I was 9 and recall playing with my other brownie friends in the garden. How do I remember so clearly? My mother was a keen amateur photographer and loved to capture the moments day by day on her Kodak box camera.

And let us not forget our beloved beagle hound Samson with his mournful face and long floppy ears. Thank heavens for snapshots!

Written on 1.5.18 in Imogen’s Narrative workshop at The Friends Centre, Brighton.